Microlearning isn’t just another buzzword – it’s a method that learning and development professionals are discovering is a great way to promote flexibility in learning and increase learner engagement.
Long courses are fine, but if someone wants to reference something they learned in a moment in need, it’s impractical to try and browse through a two-week course until they find it. Macrolearning courses miss out on opportunities to become a supplement to informal learning patterns and reinforce skills. When someone takes a long-form course, they rarely ever look at it again. This is unfortunate because there is mounting evidence of the importance of supporting informal learning in the workplace.
The idea of consuming information in short bursts has a number of transferrable learning benefits, since working memory can only process only so much information at one time. It also fits into our hectic lives.
In short, microlearning courses
- Make searching for content within the course much easier
- Fulfill just-in-time learning needs
- Allow for a blended learning approach
- Have more flexibility in when and where they are completed
- Provide opportunities to reinforce skills
- Become a resource that learners can visit again and again
- Have cognitive learning benefits
If you are looking at a large course in need of an update, this is the perfect opportunity to convert most or all of it to microlearning. Microlearning makes it simple to update courses in pieces, making it easier and more efficient for course designers and/or staff. Once converted, these modules can be updated as needed so you don’t have to work on the whole course at once. This is especially useful in compliance training, where rules and regulations might change every year.
Ask Yourself if the Course Suits a Microlearning Format
Like every learning method, microlearning has advantages and disadvantages. Not every course will suit a microlearning format. Microlearning works best when it can applied to very specific skills objectives. It can also be a great supplement to blended learning or macrolearning modules. Some topics simply require deep learning and learners will miss out on important information if it’s left out in the name of microlearning. Use your common sense and only convert courses, or portions of courses, that can actually benefit from microlearning.
Evaluate Your Learning Platform
The method of conversion you use should be compatible with the capabilities of the technology that your company uses. This will help you determine which formats- whether video, PDFs, infographics, or podcasts- to use in your microlearning modules.
For example, if your end-users need to access training on mobile devices but LMS doesn’t play nice with video on mobile, then relying heavily on video in your microlearning modules is probably a bad idea. Workers will have trouble accessing the information on their phone, making it difficult to use on a just-in-time basis. You might want to consider alternatives like PDFs and infographics, or authoring tools that can turn pretty much any type of content into mobile-ready courses..
It’s also important to take your audience’s preference(s) into account. Every learning audience is unique – get a little feedback from employees to see how best to administer microlearning, i.e. learning paths with multiple modules, informal just-in-time options, etc.
One of the most important concepts of microlearning is that each module of content centers around a course objective. Microlearning modules need to be built around an exact behavior or skill you want the student to achieve, and what they need to know to achieve it.
Most likely, you used course objectives when building the course in the first place. Once you have updated the objectives to be more current, also evaluate how broad the objectives are. Try to break the objectives down to be as specific as possible.
For example, if you have an objective like “Understand “Mailings” tab in Microsoft Office” you can break it down further into skills like “Create a recipients list in Microsoft Word” and “Create labels in Microsoft Office”. Keep in mind that they will each be their own module.
At this point you can also gather feedback from your staff about any gaps of knowledge the previous course had so that you can be sure to cover it with your new list of objectives.
Additionally, consider the searchability of the learning objectives – what terms will users be searching for? Include these terms in the course title or as separate search key words when editing the course. You can also place content into categories for users to browse .
Devise a Learning Strategy
Just because it’s microlearning, doesn’t mean you can skip over all the parts that make a piece of learning effective. Many people will label a random piece of content as “microlearning” when it’s actually just a video with no objectives, learning evaluation, or skills growth involved. There are several options for making even microlearning substantial:
- Have a short 3-5 question quiz that goes with each mini-module
- Create a longer evaluation meant for completion after the user completes multiple modules
- Use gamification techniques to track completion and instill extra motivation
- Blend it in with microlearning and on-the-job training
- Provide opportunities to transfer learning to real-world applications
- Use metrics to evaluate if your implemented solution is working
Keep it Simple
One of the biggest rules to follow when designing the content of each module is to keep it simple. You have to remember that these modules will be consumed at a rapid speed. What’s easier to consume quickly: a paragraph of text, or bullet points? Scientifically, chunking up information gets the most cognitive benefit if information is presented in visually distinct content units. Use these elements frequently in your modules:
- Bullet points and concise language
- Lots of white space
- Short paragraphs and lines of text
- Simple graphics, infographics, or videos
- Captions to make lectures easier to follow
Be sure to keep it short. There’s no golden rule about the most effective length – but if your module seems to be reaching close to ten or fifteen minutes, consider whether you can’t break up the objectives further.
Good Luck on Your Microlearning Conversion
These steps will help you begin converting long, aging courses into microlearning. You’ll get a chance to have your learners interact with content in a new, exciting way that’ll enrich their learning experience and improve retention. The learning and develop industry is moving towards a future of autonomy and flexibility – and microlearning can help provide it.